With a wiggle and a tug, my flax plants came out of the ground. Heavy-headed with seeds, Melanie and I gathered stalks until our hands could hold no more, and then tied them into 65 bundles, laying their long beautiful bodies out in the grass to dry. I have watched them from seed to blooming plant to seed again, and I’m feeling tenderly for the gift they’ve given and will give. Holding these seeded plants so recently after interring their ancestors, while in the same moment imagining their potentiality as shroud for my corpse, I find myself in the intersection of past and future concretely. My sense of time has just been rearranged.
I like big ideas, especially the ones that make me aware my thoughts have holes. As a Westerner, I find I experience a lot of dissonance between the beliefs I was given and the lived experiences of my body. I gravitate towards Eastern and indigenous understandings for this reason, and of all the concepts they’ve brought to the arena of my mind for consideration, the one of time as non-linear, of everything existing only in each moment, is the very hardest. My head struggles so to un-stick from believing time is a river moving me relentlessly towards an end.
My daughter with both feet on the enlightenment path tells me a truth that circumscribes this one could be accessed with a lifetime of meditating to see under what I’ve been taught. I trust her and this thought, but also the effects of these flax plants in my hand. And I know this moment of no-time was helped along by other moments when I’m in the natural world, having my boundaries of separateness gnawed at by the mysteries of things just being what they are. More than any faith tradition, the wild world has been and always will be the teacher that speaks most clearly to me.
Last week a stream tumbling down the Black Mountain range was holding class and I had come for tutelage. I’d reached this section once before, and then was unable to find it again in subsequent climbs up the pools, boulders, and waterfalls. A stream disappearing and reappearing in my experiences, and refusing to quit my dreams in between. As I sat in that bone-dry bed listening hard for what it wanted to say, I could hear the rush of water far above and below me, understanding that it was also under me out of sight. A stream cascading until it didn’t, and even then, still existing somewhere else. Past above, future below, present in the literal ground where I “be."
And the bed in which it flows on mountain time, having risen up tectonically and opened to sky, then surrendering to weather’s wear and gravity. The stream on water time, recycling and changing forms without end. And the flax bodies I’m holding on plant time, emerging, lengthening, blooming and seeding in a single season. And me on human time, skin creased with being long in cycles and seasons. When I take my self out of the center, I can no longer say one form’s cycle is fast or slow. Time as a construct has lost meaning. Things are just doing what they do, which is perpetually transforming. This is our Cosmos. This is Truth.
A seed and a stream tell me life is not the story of how forms are relentlessly pursued by the inescapable tyrant of Time, but instead of how form and energy are perpetually on the dance floor with each other. If I view my appearance here as bobbing in the stream of time with a waterfall at the end, I fear death. But if I know myself as part of that stream, I find ease, and even joy, in dancing with it.
Now I am imagining these seed pods making a seed pod of dead me, and the steps Melanie and I will go through in the next few months with many community helpers, to process these stalks into a shroud--retting, rippling, breaking, scutching, spinning, weaving … and POOF! I am back in linear time, extending way out beyond this moment. The power of these seeds to pull my linearity apart has left its traces however, and I will cultivate this capacity to inhabit a moment with an embodied presence, by going to the wild ones, and asking them to teach.
The flax is now a harvest, seed ancestor after seed ancestor echoing back to life. May we deeply root in all our moments, aware of the echoes that live in and through us. And may we echo long.